Tag Archives: basketball

Why Kevin Durant Should Choose the Knicks in Free Agency

So I’ve had a lot of free time during my Sabbatical, and while pondering relatively heavy topics along with the rest of the country in recent days, my mind has meandered to other (less) significant topics like NBA Free Agency.

Specifically, I’ve been thinking about Kevin Durant and the team he will play for next season (and Jeremy Lin, of course, but Durant seems to carry a bit more intrigue around the country right now).

Put simply, I think Durant should choose to play for the Knicks.

Before you label me foolish or misguided, please allow me to list why he should choose the Knicks over everyone else.

1) The Knicks play in the Eastern Conference, a far more desirable Conference to play in than the West.  If Durant’s main goal is to win a championship, then it makes sense that the easiest path to the Championship goes through the East.

Of course, the Cavs are the defending champs and defeating them is no small task, but the last I checked the Western Conference still has perennial winners in the Golden State Warriors, the Spurs, the Thunder, the Clippers, and the up-and-coming T-wolves and Pelicans.  The Eastern Conference offers a far easier path to the Championship than the Western Conference – both now and in the foreseeable future.

2) Of the 3 Eastern Conference Teams that Durant will meet with – Boston, Miami, and the Knicks – the Knicks have the best supporting cast.  I know, this is arguable, especially since both the Celtics and Heat performed far better than the Knicks last year (almost everyone performed better than the Knicks, btw).

However, the trade for Rose changes everything.  I should clarify – the trade for Rose in his contract year changes everything.

I know Bulls fans might be skeptical of Rose’s ability to stay healthy, but if he is healthy, the trio of Rose (contract year, 27 years-old, transcendent talent if he’s on top of his game), Porzingis (potentially transcendent player who’s only 21?!?!), and Melo (transcendent talent whom I hope is not past his prime).

Moreover, if Rose doesn’t work out, Durant can recruit Westbrook to come play in New York next year.

Which of the other Eastern Conference teams can offer this kind of combination of youth/talent?  Boston has youth but they’re not quite as talented, and Miami has talent but they’re not quite as young (even Whiteside seems uncertain that he’ll stay).

Moreover, this is NEW YORK CITY we’re talking about.

Winning ONE championship in New York would mean more than winning multiple championships anywhere else.

I know, this makes NO sense to non-New Yorkers.

But ANYONE who’s lived in NYC knows what I’m talking about, and knows that it’s true.

3) Why Durant shouldn’t join any of the other Western Conference Teams 

  • The Clippers – I’m surprised they got a meeting.  I don’t think they have the talent/youth to make a case for being a perennial winner, especially in the Western Conference.
  • The Warriors – As good a thing as the Warriors have going on, I can’t imagine that Durant would join a historically great team to chase a ring.  I know people dogged Lebron for ring-chasing by joining the Heat, but there’s no way that can compare to Durant joining a 73-win team as a free agent.  Granted, I think Steph is awesome and is one of the most humble superstars whom anyone would love to play with, but yeah, I just can’t see Durant joining them because it would be almost too easy.
    • Sidenote: In addition, it must be SO awkward right now on the Olympic Team.  With Klay, Draymond, and Barnes playing on the squad (along with Durant), how weird must it be for them knowing that if Durant comes, Barnes has to go.  While Melo can be unabashed in his wooing of KD, Klay and Draymond must understandably walk a fine line when talking about Durant, especially if they’re pals with Barnes, which the team chemistry on GSW seems to indicate.
  • The Spurs – I don’t think Durant can choose the Spurs over OKC, especially after OKC beat them in the playoffs this year.  I’m sure any consideration of the Spurs would stop when Westbrook gets in Durant’s ear and says, “How can you join them after we beat them in 6?!”
  • The Thunder – I seriously think it’s going to come down to the Thunder or the Knicks, especially after the Ibaka-Oladipo trade last week.  Seriously, the Thunder are loaded with Oladipo/Sabonis, and with Adams’ emergence, I think the Thunder are going to have some major swag heading into next season if their full team comes back. The only thing that makes OKC less desirable is…
    • Familiarity Breeds Boredom – I wonder if KD wants to feel what it’s like to play somewhere else.  I think Lebron had a little bit of this when he joined Miami.  I think we all do.  The grass can seem greener somewhere else.
    • Westbrook’s Team Now? – I wonder if KD would like to go to a team where he’s the clear go-to guy.  I think his friendship with Russell is real, but yeah, I’m wondering if KD would like to go somewhere where he’s clearly the #1 option. Sidenote: This is also what makes the GSW jump less likely.  I think it’d be personal if Durant leaves Westbrook to play with Curry.  This might be reading too much into it, but yeah, since Russ & KD are boys, I think Westbrook would be hurt/angered if Durant went to GSW, and I think Durant would also feel disloyal if he were to do that to Russ.  Uh, this is obviously total conjecture because I know neither Russ nor KD personally.
    • How important is it for Durant to play in the Eastern Conference?  Again, if this matters to KD – which I think it should – then I think KD should choose the Knicks.

One super-random wild card in all this is that KD considers Carl Lentz, pastor of Hillsong NY, his good friend and pastor.  I love it.

Carl, let’s make this happen.

So there you have it.

KD, become a legend in NYC.

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Dwight Howard, Lebron James, & The Millennial Generation

This is another random sports post, but one that I’ve been thinking about for some time.

In short, I think Dwight Howard and Lebron James were interesting examples of the Millennial Generation during their free agency.  Obviously it’s tough to characterize an entire generation, but I thought these guys in particular, largely because of their public platforms and stories, can be looked at as examples of Millennials.

First, I’ll give a brief synopsis of each player, and then I’ll talk about characteristics they’ve displayed as Millennials.

*FYI I root for both players.  I absolutely love Lebron and I love the Rockets (haven’t followed Dwight for as long). 

1.  Dwight Howard – Dwight’s journey is well-chronicled from his rise to dominance with the Orlando Magic to his acrimonious exit via trade to the LA Lakers, to his difficult year in Los Angeles, to his eventual landing in Houston as a free agent.  Through his journey, he’s been criticized harshly for waffling in his decision-making and his inability to play under the bright lights in LA.

I for one, am glad that he plays for the Houston Rockets now, because I think he’s a better fit for the team and they have a better shot at winning a championship.

The free agency of Dwight Howard and Lebron James Exemplify Most Millennials

The Free Agency of Dwight Howard and Lebron James Exemplify Most Millennials

2.  Lebron James – Lebron is the best basketball player in the world, and arguably one of the best players ever.  Lebron’s story is also well-chronicled, and he’s won the League MVP and NBA Championship two consecutive years.

Lebron has come a long way in rebuilding his image after he left Cleveland as a free agent in regrettable fashion.  No one argues with his decision at this point considering the outcomes – just the way it was handled.

Lebron is one of my favorite players, and I’m seriously rooting for him to become the best of all-time (sorry Chicagoans).

How Dwight & Lebron Exemplify Millennials:

1.  “I Deserve to Be Happy” – Dwight made this comment before his decision to leave the Lakers, and he’s continued saying this now that he’s with the Rockets, where he seems to be much happier.

Much of his wavering decision-making had to do with trying to make others happy – Orlando, Laker fans, etc.  When he chose the Rockets, he finally made up his mind to choose 1) winning, and 2) his own happiness.

It’s interesting that he stresses the happiness part because it was clear to most folks that Houston gave him the best chance to win titles over the next few years, signaling that it was winning that was the chief decision-making factor.

However, there’s something about the happiness statement that resonates with Millennials, and I think that’s why he uses it (he himself is a Millennial), I think.

There’s this epic post that describes the mindset of most Millennials, particularly the feelings of entitlement and the search for happiness.  It’s this idea that we deserve to be happy.

However, as the blog post skillfully points out, our entitled views of happiness often lead us toward becoming unhappy, unless we modify expectations.

I hope Dwight modifies expectations and then leads the Rockets to a championship, which would make me really happy.

2.  “I Want to Play With My Friends” – People ripped Lebron for “joining Wade’s team” and not being an alpha-dog in his free agency, but I thought it was ironic that for someone who was being ripped as being arrogant and selfish, Lebron was 1) taking a pay cut, and 2) virtually admitting that he can’t do it on his own.

If anything, Lebron should have been applauded for humbling himself by joining the Heat!

Okay, “humbling” might be too strong a word, because his decision was also based on 1) winning, and 2) playing with his friends.

Anyhow, what I love about Lebron is how his teammates love playing with him.  It’s clear that Lebron relishes being a teammate on a team.

I think Millennials are similar in this way – they would rather play with their friends to accomplish goals.

In church world, the rise of networks and city-wide movements have really resonated for Millennials because of this teamwork dynamic.  I think most Millennials really believe that we’re better together.

3.  Above All, We Want to Win – It’d be nice to be happy and it’d be nice to play with my friends, but I think Millennials are also committed to leaving a legacy that will remain.

Dwight and Lebron understand this, hence both of them approached free agency looking for the best chance to win.

For Dwight, people said he couldn’t handle the bright lights of LA, but realistically, the Lakers would have been a really tough roster for him to win with.  I don’t think it’s fair to pile on Dwight about leaving LA or spurning the Mavs or Warriors (although the W’s look real good right now) for choosing Houston.

For Lebron, it’s clear he made the right choice about where to play because the Heat have won the championship two out of the last three years.

I love the idealism of Millennials that want to make history, and I think Dwight and Lebron both have that.

They both realized the bottom line was winning, and whatever people want to say about either of them, they both chose the best path toward winning.

——-

In sum, I’m not sure if I’m a Millennial, but I hope that I can be marked as someone who 1) Works Hard Without Feeling Entitled to Happiness, 2) Gets to Work with My Friends, and 3) Is Crazy Enough to Think that I Can Leave a Legacy that Lasts.

Jeremy Lin, Why I Believe Asian Americans Love Him, and the Recipe for Linsanity

If you haven’t heard by now, there’s a fellow by the name of Jeremy Lin who has taken NYC by storm as a point guard for the NY Knicks.  Nation-wide, Lin has also captured the affections of many Asian-Americans, as well as others who are enamored by his underdog story.

Jeremy Lin is the starting point guard for the New York Knicks and is averaging 25.3 points and 8.3 assists in the last three games (all wins).

I wrote about Lin a year and a half ago and shared why he’s my favorite player, and it’s hard to believe all that’s happened in the past three games.  It seems like just yesterday when Tom Kim and I were discussing what it would take for D’Antoni to play the kid.

After scouring the internet for just about every article about Lin in the past couple of days, and reading these three insightful pieces on Lin and the Asian American community, I thought I’d chime in about my own thoughts on Lin and the peculiarity of his story that I believe touches so many Asian Americans and the broader public (it’s not simply because he’s Asian American).

I’d argue that Lin’s story is so engrossing because of a variety of factors, all of which lead to the buzz he’s generating.  If any of the factors below did not exist, I don’t think there would be as much excitement over Lin in the Asian-American community, nor in the broader American audience.

So without further ado, here’s the sentence that I believe encapsulates all the contributing factors to Linsanity (and particularly how it relates to Asian Americans).  I will dissect this sentence below to extrapolate on Lin’s significance.

Jeremy Lin is the starting point guard for the New York Knicks and is averaging 25.3 points and 8.3 assists in the last three games (all wins).

1) Jeremy Lin Jeremy’s an Asian American, and we just haven’t seen many professional Asian-American athletes in the big three U.S. sports of football, basketball, and baseball.  We’ve seen people of mixed race (a la Hines Ward or Patrick Chung) do quite well, but no one like Lin who was born to immigrant parents in the United States like so many others in this country.

Of all three major sports, basketball in particular places a higher premium on raw athletic talent, and I think it’s fair to say that one big reason that Asian-Americans haven’t played in the NBA is because in general, we don’t have the raw athleticism and size as other races.

As a result, athletics, and basketball in particular, is an area in which Asian Americans (and likely any other non-African American race) have felt stereotyped against.  I know this has been true in my own experience.

My brother-in-law David Park (former Harvard player himself) puts it this way:

The stereotyping or snaps to summary judgments occur for all non-African American players. The prototypical ultra-athletic guard is almost exclusively African-American (or from African descent). The game is designed to favor this kind of athleticism with bigger courts, rules against team defense, and even the hand-checking rules. If you’re a team that has to play the odds, you go with the athletes that have potential and try to develop their game. It’s so much upside driven.

Jeremy has a chance to carve out a solid role-playing guard spot that could even be a starting role with significant minutes for the right team. His decision making will keep getting better, and he hasn’t peaked in his strength or athleticism. Teams with players like Melo and Chandler and Stoudemire (not guard-driven) should love to play with a guy like Lin, who will defend, get them the ball in good spots (esp in transition), and hit open jumpers at a decent rate (which he should improve as well over time).

I’m sure Marshall could tell tons of stories, but I always felt discriminated against when I was playing hoops, often by my own teammates. I chose to take it as people being people, and not take it personally. It’s just human nature to stereotype and Asians are absolutely some of the guiltiest in this regard. Jeremy is a pioneer and will have to fight tougher battles than the guys to follow, but there will be guys that follow, esp. from Asia., at some point. For Asian Americans honestly I think it will be harder because the risk/reward is so incredibly high for pursuing professional sports with the kind of commitment you need to be successful.

Jeremy is an outlier in the Asian American community because he has a unique combination of God-given athleticism and talent that eludes most Asian Americans, but he also has the drive to maximize those talents.  The drive alone is inspirational, especially if there are kids after him who also happen to have the size and talent (hopefully our own son David will).  Haha…

Personally, I appreciate that he’s a Christian as well (and Lin mentions his Christian identity as first and foremost in his life), and for folks who are both Christian and Asian-American (a significant group at many college campuses), these are both ways we can relate to Lin.  You can see my previous post from 2010 for more about this.

For the broader public, I think they can appreciate the underdog story of Lin, not being offered a Division 1 scholarship, being undrafted, being cut twice earlier this year.  At every level of basketball he has proven that he belongs – the same is now true for the NBA – he just never really had a chance at significant minutes in the NBA, and it took a coach with his back against the wall to finally give him some minutes.

And as has been customary in Jeremy’s career, he’s proving that he belongs in a league that has never seen anyone like him.

2) …starting point guard… this story would be different if Lin was a big man like Yao, or if he was anything but a point guard.  Let me explain.

In general, the point guard is the quarterback of a basketball team (unless you run the triangle or you have a capable playmaker like Lebron or Allen Iverson).  In other words, the point guard often leads the team, almost as an extension of the coach himself.

In D’Antoni’s offense in particular, the point guard is crucial for its success, a point which many Knick fans have bemoaned seeing the point guard play this year.

As a point guard in D’Antonti’s sytem, one needs to be the alpha dog.  The point guard makes the engine go, and if the right person isn’t in that spot, everything else suffers (again, see the Knicks before February for proof of this).

Jeremy has not simply been a back-up warming the seat for the next guy.  He’s been the guy.

And Jeremy’s not some specialist like Steve Novak who gets 19 points/game but gets little love, or a big man who depends on someone else to feed him the ball.  For Novak and guys like Jared Jeffries, their production comes from someone else’s playmaking.

Jeremy has been the lead guard for the Knicks these past three games.  And he’s taken the reins and been fearless in his role.

There are many Asian American stereotypes of Asian men being paper tigers, as well as the broader feelings of Asian Americans as having a bamboo ceiling, as if Asian Americans are only helpful in support roles but not in lead roles.  As an Asian American, I can attest to this perception, whether real or not, being felt in various places I’ve been.

But here’s Jeremy Lin playing a lead role on his team, and his style of play actually breaks the norms of what Asian-Americans are expected to be/do.

Jeremy’s not just spotting up for open jumpers or playing some side role.  He’s forcing and initiating the action, and as much as people want to talk about the intelligence of his game, he’s actually got a bit of “bad-ass” to his game that basically says I’m going to take it to the cup every time I can.

In other words, it’s not just the fact that Jeremy is having success that gets the Asian American community excited, it’s the way he plays the game.  He’s fearless as a player and leader, and quite frankly, a “bad-ass” in the way he plays.

This is not to say that alpha-dog mentalities are the only ways that Asian-Americans can/should act or behave – it’s just to say that there are few examples that buck the stereotype of passive, support-type, personalities amongst Asian-Americans.

With Jeremy Lin, the stereotypes of paper tigers and bamboo ceilings get challenged with each fearless foray to the hoop.

Sidenote: Shout out to my boy Marshall Cho, coach another bad-ass guard who along with my bro-in-law David are two of the best Asian-American ballers I know.  I loved playing with Marshall because his game was a lot like Lin’s!

3) …for the New York Knicks I may be wrong on this one, but this story is even more buzzworthy because it’s happening in New York, the largest city in the United States and possibly the most influential city in the world.  Jeremy is playing at Madison Square Garden, which is often referred to as basketball mecca.

I texted someone that if Jeremy wins the crowd, he’ll win the battle against every odd against him (a la the movie the Gladiator), and boy, did he win the crowd.

There’s nothing as electric as having the Garden behind you, and now that the New York media is on top of this thing, it’s created a phenomenon.

Could this have happened if he played in Houston?  Golden State?  I don’t know.  I don’t think it’d be quite as significant.

In the words of Frank Sinatra, “If you can make it here, you can make it anywhere.”

Jeremy is proving on the biggest basketball stage that he can be a lead guard amongst the best basketball players in the world.

4) …averaging 25.3 points and 8.3 assists in the last three games (all wins)… These are ridiculous numbers.  These are Lebron-esque, Derrick Rose-esque numbers.  Look at where Lin ranks on the Player Efficiency Rating – 2nd in the entire NBA, above guys like Kevin Durant, Kobe Bryant, and Dwyane Wade!

Now, you might call this a fluke, but Lin was actually leading the Knicks in PER before he was getting significant minutes.  Sure, it may have been garbage time, but somehow, he elevates the team when he’s in the game, and now he’s done it in starter minutes.

Some people are saying, “well, Knicks fans were up on Iman Shumpert earlier this year, or Toney Douglas last year”, and while that’s true, none of these guys put up these numbers.

The only other players who put up these kind of numbers are named Lebron, Rose and Paul.

I’m not saying that Lin can sustain these numbers, but the numbers show that statistics are backing the hype, at least right now.

If Lin had put up these numbers and lost, there wouldn’t be as much hype.

If Lin had put up half these numbers and won, there wouldn’t be as much hype.

But Lin has played exceedingly well as the lead contributor to the team’s winning and renaissance.

Everyone is expecting something to drop off – either the wins and/or the numbers – but they haven’t.

It’s preposterous to posture that the Knicks will win every game and that Lin will continue to play this well statistically (especially with Stat and Melo coming back) but the numbers and the wins support the hype right now.

And that’s why this city is going bonkers with Linsanity.

And as a Christian Asian-American sports enthusiast, I’m going bonkers too.

being a cal fan

340117294_185f49fc763A few weeks ago at Peter and Jen’s baby shower (since then, Eli has been born!), I had a great time reconnecting with old Berkeley friends.

One person who was not from Cal was Chris, Eddie Chin’s wife.  She humorously told Mike Park and I, “there is a third person in our marriage – Cal Golden Bear (or, Oski).”  I laughed uncontrollably – I thought that was a hilarious way of describing Eddie’s fandom.  My wife Tina didn’t think it was funny.

Anyhow, Chris continued to describe Cal fandom and she says, “I don’t know any other school where the fans root so hard for their team… especially when they’re not very good.”  I laughed again, but it was an embarrassed laugh.  I tried to make it look like I was laughing at Eddie, though.

Over the past few weeks, I’ve been thinking about Chris’s assessment, mostly whenever I’d scramble around Queens looking for where to watch the latest Cal Football game.

As usual, it’s been an emotionally trying year for our football team.  There was the heartbreaker in Maryland, where we had no business scheduling a game at 9 am pst.  Then there was the Arizone game, furiously watched by updating my browser until the 3rd quarter became unbearable.  The SC game was somewhat expected, but still my hopes were up when we stayed close enough to tie the game yet to be denied by the refs.  And then finally, there was the osu game this past weekend – no comment.

What’s most frustrating is that we would be 10-0 if we were in the big ten.

Back to fandom, though, I actually think Chris’s take on Cal athletics and its fans is true – we have the most die-hard fans, but we’re not very good.

Every Cal grad I know (and hang out with in nyc) follows the football team from week to week, and this includes men AND women, sports fans AND non-sports fans.  It’s really quite remarkable.  Off the top of my head, crazy Cal fans include Dave S., Dareyn S., Karen C., Eddie, Mike P., Rebecca, Jerry L. Devon S., Renju, J., etc.

And what’s kinda nonsensical about this fandom is that we’re not that good!  It’s hard for me to admit, but it’s true.  I’d like to think we’re in the same category as sc because we’re always near the top of the pac 10 in recent years, but everyone outside of the East Bay would say that there’s absolutely NO WAY we’re in the same conversation.

From the outside looking in, our most recent reputation (because we were downright horrible when I was in school) is probably like a michigan state, byu, west virgina, boston college, or texas tech.  We’re that team that’s dangerous, but generally 3-5 losses a year, with some flirting with the top of the polls once in awhile.

Sigh.

I’m still trying to figure out why we’re so crazy committed to our teams, though, more than the average alums.  I can understand why sc fans get so excited, but us, it’s harder to understand. My general take is:

1)  We all loved going to Cal

2)  We were horrible in the major sports for so long, it feels good to just be ranked or get to the ncaa tourney (I know this is quite silly, but whenever Cal is in the tourney, I ALWAYS pick them to get to the sweet 16 – see how this fandom goes against practical wisdom?  Btw, Dave Song probably picks them to win it.).

3)  We’ve felt so close to being at the top.  Our pride leads us to believe we can be at the top, and we’ll try whatever we can to be at the top, but let’s face it, we’re not at the top, and it’ll be a long way to the top.

Anyhow, these are my thoughts.  One day, I hope to be able to tell the following people that Cal is the best football or basketball team in the country:

My wife Tina

My brother Stephen

Minjue

Dave Choi

Matt Yi

Matt Schweingruber

Jeff Bush

Gus

Danny Chai

Mike and Frank Favilla

Anyone affiliated with USC

Chris, Eddie’s wife.